The Rundown: Possibility of Trading Bryant Unnerving, Cubs Show Interest in Keuchel, Strasburg Makes Bank

How many times did you refresh Twitter, check MLBTR, or refer to your favorite dedicated team site (that would be Cubs insider) yesterday to see if Kris Bryant had been traded? I probably checked every 15 minutes. Bryant has been one of the more polarizing topics in all of baseball, and whether you are for trading him or against, it almost seems like a foregone conclusion that the former MVP will be playing for the Braves, Dodgers, Angels or Phillies in 2020.

As David Byrne might say, “well, how did we get here?” Or, if Bryant is moved, “My God, what have I done?”

Despite a stream of never-ending revenues, the Cubs are running their baseball operations budget like they’re the Oakland Athletics, which seems puzzling. Theo Epstein, who has made some egregious mistakes in free agency, isn’t really carrying any dead money like the Yankees are with Jacoby Ellsbury, whom they still owe $26 million even after cutting the outfielder last month. There was a little money tied up in injured players like Brandon Morrow, but he’s gone, at least for now.

As far as underperforming players, I suppose Jon Lester and Jason Heyward qualify, but the Cubs were still a 91-win team based on their 2019 pythagorean record, so why the sudden urge to break it up? Even Anthony Rizzo has been mentioned in trade talks.

Using the Cliff’s Notes version of the team’s current financial state, a series of poor moves and profligate spending since 2016 have apparently landed the Cubs in the low rent garment district of offseason shopping. That’s effectively tasked Epstein and Jed Hoyer with handling the biggest elephant in the team’s San Diego War Room, which is whether or not to trade Bryant. As you all know, Bryant has filed a grievance regarding his service time, and if he is not granted his freedom after this season, he’s looking at $40 million+ through arbitration covering his last two arbitration years.

Believe it or not, that’s still a bargain for a five-WAR player like Bryant, so the sudden desire to trade him seems ridiculous if the Cubs intend to compete for a World Series. Giving up the third sacker would probably work against any championship aspirations, which leads to the question that surely has crossed the minds of every Cubs fan this week: Is the organization slamming its own competitive window shut?

The sad fact remains that Cubs fans who dreamed of seeing Bryce Harper and Bryant in the same lineup may finally see their wishes come true.

Cubs News & Notes

  • Sahadev Sharma of The Athletic notes that the Cubs are possibly counting on teams that miss out on Anthony Rendon or Josh Donaldson to come calling about Bryant, which would leave Chicago discussing their all-star third baseman with at least three of the Dodgers, Braves, Rangers, Phillies, and Nationals. Of that group, Sharma indicates that Epstein would most likely be interested ($) in the prospect-deep Atlanta or Los Angeles farm systems, or possibly even the Padres, who might see Bryant as an outfield option.
  • Epstein said he is not going to force any trades and will not move players just for the sake of making changes.
  • The front office remains in a kind of holding pattern as the top end of the free-agent market shakes out.
  • Despite having no money, and with starting pitchers getting paid like team owners have just struck oil, the Cubs are reportedly showing interest in starter Dallas Keuchel, with the obvious caveat that they need to first free up some money, of course.
  • Recent trade speculation has the Braves interested in Bryant, and Rizzo was mentioned again yesterday as a player who could return a bountiful of prospects. A lot of writers sure seem to be entertaining the thought that the Cubs are seeking prospect-laden deals. It is really starting to feel like this year’s reckoning may be a complete rebuild.
  • Potential center field option Shogo Akiyama is in the U.S. and attending the Winter Meetings with his agent, according to Nippon Sports.
  • There is no momentum on a potential reunion with Ben Zobrist.
  • Joe Girardi said yesterday that he knew he was never the favorite to replace Joe Maddon, and that he tried to convince the Cubs’ brass otherwise during his lengthy interview. Who goes into an interview admitting he/she is not going to be hired?

Apropos of Nothing

Tuesday Stove

Stephen Strasburg signed a record-breaking contract to stay in Washington and play for the Nationals. The World Series MVP will now most likely finish his career with the same team that drafted him, thanks to a contract that will pay him $245 million dollars with full no-trade protection.

Strasburg’s contract would seem to make the alleged seven-year $245 million contract that the Yankees plan to offer Gerrit Cole just a tad light. Cole is now expected to get a contract that pays him upward of $300 million.

It seems the Nationals might not be able to afford to keep third baseman Anthony Rendon now that they have finalized their deal with Strasburg. Rendon is also expected to exceed $300 million with a new contract this winter. The Rangers and Dodgers are said to be the most obvious suitors for the free agent third baseman.

The Indians don’t seem truly motivated to trade all-star shortstop Francisco Lindor.

With record-breaking contracts being handed out in droves so far this offseason, it would appear that baseball has corrected its labor market issues of the past few seasons. Or has it?

New Music Tuesday

  1. Legend by Poco – It only took 11 albums for Poco to become a mainstream-accepted band, and came after the departure of former lead singer Timothy B. Schmit to the Eagles. Crazy Love is the single that gave Poco regular radio airplay and it’s still a top spin on stations that specialize in yacht rock. I bet you didn’t know that the late Phil Hartman of SNL and News Radio drew the album cover. Now you do.
  2. Purple Rain by Prince –  A true front-to-backer and technically designated as a soundtrack, this album also launched Prince into the radio mainstream, though he had received some FM airplay for Little Red Corvette off of his previous album, 1999. The singer-songwriter’s vocals and arrangements are unmistakable, but Prince is often not given enough credit for being a truly badass guitar player. His performance during Super Bowl XLI remains the NFL’s best halftime show ever.
  3. The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys by Traffic – Steve Winwood was still just a kid when Traffic released this iconic album that leans heavily to the progressive side of rock and roll. The name of the album, and its title song, was suggested by the late character actor and Oscar winner Michael J. Pollard (Bonnie & Clyde, Scrooged) who passed away 10 days ago. The LP’s front cover is notable for its top right and bottom left corners being clipped at 45-degree angles, giving the illusion of a three-dimensional cube. Winwood, by the way, is magnificent on this effort.

Extra Innings

Greg Maddux said that there was no easier batter to pitch to than Barry Bonds. That Bonds, a seven-time MVP, isn’t in the Hall of Fame is a sham, and Sammy Sosa should have been inducted, too. A topic for another day, I suppose.

They Said It

  • “I think we’re fairly confident in what [Bryant’s] outcome is going to be, but the timing I guess is a bit frustrating.  It’d be nice to know. We’re at the Winter Meetings and there still hasn’t been a ruling. But I understand these things take time. Certainly, it’s not going to be more than a couple weeks away, but it’d be nice to have that final confirmation. But we’re operating with what our understanding of what the likely outcome will be and moving forward that way.” – Theo Epstein

Tuesday Walk Up Song

Only Love Can Break Your Heart by Neil Young. It seems more and more like the Cubs and Bryant, and possibly other fan favorites, are destined to part ways before the 2020 season begins.

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